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Rick

Urcuquí, Ecuador
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  • Tenth of December

  • Stories
  • By: George Saunders
  • Narrated by: George Saunders
  • Length: 5 hrs and 40 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 1,177
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 1,060
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 1,066

One of the most important and blazingly original writers of his generation, George Saunders is an undisputed master of the short story, and Tenth of December is his most honest, accessible, and moving collection yet. In the taut opener, "Victory Lap", a boy witnesses the attempted abduction of the girl next door and is faced with a harrowing choice: Does he ignore what he sees, or override years of smothering advice from his parents and act? In "Home", a combat-damaged soldier moves back in with his mother and struggles to reconcile the world he left with the one to which he has returned.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Be prepared for something different...but good!

  • By Mr. D on 02-21-14

No thanks

Overall
2 out of 5 stars
Performance
2 out of 5 stars
Story
2 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 07-13-18

Saunders has been described as “inventive,” and he certainly is that, though mostly not in a good way. Others say, “He writes the way people talk.” Perhaps that is the reason that most people aren’t writers.

I know he is considered by many to be a modern master of the short story, and I’m glad he strikes a chord in so many. But not me.

Finally, he’s a careless and choppy narrator. Sorry.

  • The Terror

  • A Novel
  • By: Dan Simmons
  • Narrated by: Tom Sellwood
  • Length: 28 hrs and 35 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,536
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,441
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,441

The men onboard HMS Terror have every expectation of finding the Northwest Passage. When the expedition's leader, Sir John Franklin, meets a terrible death, Captain Francis Crozier takes command and leads his surviving crewmen on a last, desperate attempt to flee south across the ice. But as another winter approaches, as scurvy and starvation grow more terrible, and as the Terror on the ice stalks them southward, Crozier and his men begin to fear there is no escape.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • DON"T watch the (whole) TV show first please.

  • By Piper on 05-05-18

An Icy Horror

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 07-11-18

It was 1845 when two British sailing ships, the HMS Erebus and Terror, set out in search of the Northwest Passage. They were soon trapped in the Arctic ice with crews of 129 men between them. The remains of the ships were found more than 150 years later, but apart from a handful of graves, no trace of the men or explanation of their fate was ever discovered.

In Dan Simmons’ fictionalized account, their story stretches over 28-1/2 hours of spellbinding storytelling. The first 15 minutes provide as visceral a description of Artic cold as one would ever want to hear. With temperatures approaching 100 below zero, there is the constant sound of the ice: groaning, grinding, exploding, snapping, shrieking. There are violent lightning storms, and the months of unending darkness.

A murderous monster preys on the men in the Arctic night, lurking among pressure ridges 80 feet tall, ice boulders, growlers, and séracs—pinnacles of ice like a frozen forest. Add to all this a mute and mysterious young Eskimo woman—a witch?—along with scurvy, starvation, lead poisoning, cannibalism, and mutiny.

There’s a lot to work with here. Endless twists of plot, each unexpected, drive this saga through its great length, with no time for boredom, to a brilliant conclusion. A NY Times review complained that the book was much too long. I disagree, especially with the narrative skills of Tom Sellwood, who at his best produces a resonant, bone-chilling growl worthy of Jeremy Irons.

  • Boy's Life

  • By: Robert McCammon
  • Narrated by: George Newbern
  • Length: 20 hrs and 10 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,818
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,703
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,703

Zephyr, Alabama, is an idyllic hometown for eleven-year-old Cory Mackenson - a place where monsters swim the river deep and friends are forever. Then, one cold spring morning, Cory and his father witness a car plunge into a lake - and a desperate rescue attempt brings his father face-to-face with a terrible, haunting vision of death. As Cory struggles to understand his father's pain, his eyes are slowly opened to the forces of good and evil that surround him.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • A Feast for the Senses!

  • By Kim Venatries on 10-13-14

Magical Times

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 06-27-18

It’s the spring of 1964, and Cory Meckenson is turning 12 in the idyllic small town of Zephyr, Alabama. In a story woven with fantasy and more than a touch of the supernatural, there are adventurous boyhood pals, bullies, cranky teachers, doting parents, moonshiners and Klansmen, all accompanied by the soundtrack of the Beach Boys. And the haunting presence of a dead man in the blackness of the town’s bottomless lake. Not to mention real live dinosaur.

The plot is festooned with surprises, both complex and satisfying as it unfolds to a dramatic conclusion. George Newbern’s narration gives exactly the right voice to young Cory’s first-person narration, with a youthful and genuine Alabama drawl.

McCammon, in my contrarian view, is more a master of plot than language. I was especially irritated by his relentless barrage of overwrought similes, such as, “January was champing at its bit like an eager horse,” or, “(the tires) shrieked like constipated banshees.” Ick. It probably didn’t help that I’d just finished “Bonfire of the Vanities,” and it may be unfair to compare most writers to Tom Wolfe.

  • Calypso

  • By: David Sedaris
  • Narrated by: David Sedaris
  • Length: 6 hrs and 38 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 4,176
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 3,811
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3,792

If you've ever laughed your way through David Sedaris's cheerfully misanthropic stories, you might think you know what you're getting with Calypso. You'd be wrong. When he buys a beach house on the Carolina coast, Sedaris envisions long, relaxing vacations spent playing board games and lounging in the sun with those he loves most. And it's as idyllic as he imagined, except for one tiny, vexing realization: it's impossible to take a vacation from yourself. With Calypso, Sedaris sets his formidable powers of observation - and dark humor - toward middle age and mortality.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Excellent, as always

  • By Ruthie on 05-31-18

Uproariously Serious

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 06-15-18

The latest collection of essays from David Sedaris has an undertone of mortality and advancing age. Not gloomy, by any means, but his stories—while side-splittingly hilarious—are also just slightly more pointed and often poignant. As in “Theft by Finding,” Sedaris has accumulated more hindsight, context, and confidence. The deaths of his mother and a sister are part of what shapes his thinking as he enters his 60s. And his writing just gets better and better.

But very, very funny. Who else would have a benign tumor excised, just so he could feed it to a turtle?

  • The Bonfire of the Vanities

  • By: Tom Wolfe
  • Narrated by: Joe Barrett
  • Length: 27 hrs and 28 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 2,363
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,792
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 1,794

Tom Wolfe's best-selling modern classic tells the story of Sherman McCoy, an elite Wall Street bond trader who has it all: wealth, power, prestige, a Park Avenue apartment, a beautiful wife, and an even more beautiful mistress - until one wrong turn sends Sherman spiraling downward into a humiliating fall from grace. A car accident in the Bronx involving Sherman, his girlfriend, and two young lower-class black men sets a match to the incendiary racial and social tensions of 1980s New York City.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • TEN STARS

  • By JOHN on 08-23-09

A Liberal is a Conservative Who Has Been Arrested

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 06-12-18

Tom Wolfe’s blistering takedown of the excesses of 1980s New York still echoes with authority today—just add a few zeroes to the dollar amounts.

There are crooked cops, sleazy journalists, airhead socialites, Bronx delinquents, self-serving activists, and especially the rapacious traders of Wall Street, for whom a million-dollar salary isn’t nearly enough to cover the basic costs of living well. Even the protagonist’s sweet young daughter is obviously headed for a future of privilege and snobbery.

Upon reflection, there isn’t a single noble character in the entire book. Some are classier than others, but only superficially.

It’s amazing how much trouble people who have everything can create for themselves. But they are brilliantly terrible, thanks to Wolfe. There is never a dull moment in his breathlessly paced work.

The narrator, Joe Barrett, delivers a masterpiece in his portrayal of dozens of characters in polyglot New York. His interpretation of the pompous laughter at a mega-pretentious high society dinner party (what Wolfe calls “the hive”) is alone worth hearing, and that soiree is a brilliant indictment of the book’s target of well-heeled scoundrels.

Barrett’s work here is the best I’ve heard since he voiced “A Prayer for Owen Meany.” He is the perfect conduit for Tom Wolfe’s vocabulary, characters, storyline, dialogue, and caustic caricature.

Buried in the middle of the book is an ominous reference to Poe’s short story, “The Masque of the Red Death,” in which a prince named Prospero (of all things) seals his eminent guests in a castle for a masked ball, to protect them while the Plague rages outside. It doesn’t work.

Reap the whirlwind.

  • A Higher Loyalty

  • Truth, Lies, and Leadership
  • By: James Comey
  • Narrated by: James Comey
  • Length: 9 hrs and 4 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 18,826
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 17,173
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 17,092

In his audiobook, A Higher Loyalty, former FBI director James Comey shares his never-before-told experiences from some of the highest stakes situations of his career in the past two decades of American government, exploring what good, ethical leadership looks like and how it drives sound decisions. His journey provides an unprecedented entry into the corridors of powe, and a remarkable lesson in what makes an effective leader.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • More Than Trump: All Comey's Life/Working Years--

  • By Gillian on 04-17-18

A Brilliant Civics Lesson

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 04-29-18

James Comey had a long and distinguished career before he was fired by Donald Trump, and his blockbuster best-seller spends more time establishing his credibility than dishing dirt. His autobiographical account is necessarily one-sided, since that’s what an autobiography is, but persuasive.

The man who ultimately inherited the job of the legendary J. Edgar Hoover is obviously intelligent and principled, and deeply patriotic. He’s also an excellent writer and narrator whose tales of prosecuting mafia dons and even Martha Stewart make this a real page-turner. He does a credible job of explaining how he handled the Clinton email investigation, which was a series of incredibly difficult decisions, often with no good choices. Diehard Hillary partisans will probably disagree.

He’s more than halfway through before the subject swings to Trump. Ominously, Comey repeatedly returns to the parallels with the mob bosses he prosecuted.

At a highly uncomfortable private White House dinner, Trump demands his loyalty, and seems either incapable of understanding the independent role of the FBI, or simply doesn’t care.

“It would never occur to an ethical leader to ask for loyalty,” Comey observes.

In Comey’s telling, the White House becomes a bizarre house of mirrors, inhabited by a president who is dishonest, unhinged, narcissistic, and just not very bright.

“As I found myself thrust into the Trump orbit, I once again was having flashbacks to my earlier career as a prosecutor against the mob. The silent circle of assent, the boss in complete control, the loyalty oaths, the ‘us versus them’ worldview, the lying about all things large and small in service to some code of loyalty that put the organization above morality, and above the truth.”

The book’s epilogue in the closing minutes is a brilliant summation to a jury of the American people by a veteran federal prosecutor. It should be required reading in every high school civics class.

  • Commune

  • Commune, Book 1
  • By: Joshua Gayou
  • Narrated by: R.C. Bray
  • Length: 9 hrs and 45 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,554
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 2,423
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,417

For dinosaurs, it was a big rock. For humans: Coronal Mass Ejection (CME). When the Earth is hit by the greatest CME in recorded history (several times larger than the Carrington Event of 1859), the combined societies of the planet's most developed nations struggle to adapt to a life thrust back into the Dark Ages. In the United States, the military scrambles to speed the nation's recovery on multiple fronts including putting down riots, establishing relief camps, delivering medical aid, and bringing communication and travel back on line. Just as a real foothold is established in retaking the skies (utilizing existing commercial aircraft supplemented by military resources and ground control systems), a mysterious virus takes hold of the population, spreading globally over the very flight routes that the survivors fought so hard to rebuild.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • I want to adopt the characters into my family

  • By yarginator on 11-27-17

A Prepper’s Instruction Manual

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
3 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 04-16-18

I enjoy good post-apocalypse stories, but found this one to be tiresome. It started slow and largely stayed that way as a small band of survivors made their treacherous way toward safety at a mountain retreat in Wyoming. The plot is a plausible one: a powerful coronal mass ejection from the sun immobilizes a vast swath of modern machines, and a deadly plague soon follows, taking out much of civilization in an overwhelming one-two punch.

The expedition by the main characters consists of longwinded descriptions punctuated by bursts of violence. Descriptions of exactly how to fire assault rifles, for instance, or how to extract gasoline from the tanks of abandoned cars. The painfully detailed account of a chess game is something I thought would never end.

The book needs an editor.

R.C. Bray is a much-loved narrator of audiobooks, but seemed a poor choice for this one. He doesn’t do a credible female voice, and this book is written from the viewpoint of the characters—a woman, Amanda, in most of its chapters.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Fata Morgana

  • By: Steven R. Boyett, Ken Mitchroney
  • Narrated by: Macleod Andrews
  • Length: 12 hrs and 9 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,602
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,514
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,503

At the height of the air war in Europe, Captain Joe Farley and the baseball-loving, wisecracking crew of the B-17 Flying Fortress Fata Morgana are in the middle of a harrowing bombing mission over East Germany when everything goes sideways. The bombs are still falling, and flak is still exploding all around the 20-ton bomber as it is knocked like a bathtub duck into another world. Suddenly stranded with the final outcasts of a desolated world, Captain Farley navigates a maze of treachery and wonder.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Best one I have heard in some time!

  • By The Zombie Specialist on 10-10-17

The Time Mirage

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 03-28-18

A brand-new B-17 bomber rises into the sky for a bombing run over Nazi Germany, and flies through a storm of anti-aircraft fire to land in another world: a ruined and desolate place that is gradually revealed to be not another planet, but the future of our own. It has the ring of a long-ago “Twilight Zone” episode, but with a more elaborate plot and plenty of surprises.

The plane is named the Fata Morgana, for a complex kind of mirage that is sometimes seen just above the horizon. Its tightly-knit crew struggles to return home from this strange new world, while battling twisted fantasies about time itself. There are some mind-bending concepts that only grow more fantastic as the story moves on.

Just as the crew returns against impossible odds--or thinks it has--something is still not quite right. Captain Joe Farley, the pilot, sums it up: “Time’s not an arrow. It’s a shock wave. It spreads out in all directions at once, from every possible past, to every possible future… There is out there a hub around which all times turn.”

The book has a fairly large cast of characters, and at times I felt it was difficult to keep them all straight, despite Macleod Andrews’ excellent used of regional accents and voices. It merits attentive listening. (This could also be a case for reading the book in print.)

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Elmer Gantry

  • By: Sinclair Lewis
  • Narrated by: Anthony Heald
  • Length: 15 hrs and 56 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 500
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 305
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 311

A greedy, philandering Baptist minister, Elmer Gantry turns to evangelism and becomes the leader of a large Methodist congregation. Often exposed as a fraud, he is never fully discredited. Elmer Gantry is considered a landmark American novel and one of the most penetrating studies of hypocrisy in modern literature. It portrays the evangelistic activity that was common in 1920s America as well as attitudes toward it.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Halleluja, Brother Lewis!

  • By Erez on 12-09-08

Adventures in Hypocrisy

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 03-15-18

You know the book, at least by reputation, but it’s the narrator’s audio sample that draws you in immediately. Anthony Heald is an accomplished actor who injects amazing energy into the novel.

Sinclair Lewis, who among other formative impressions counted a visit to a Billy Sunday show in 1917, was known to refer collectively to evangelists as “the religion racket.” In “Elmer Gantry,” he portrays the rise and fall of a silver-tongued young Kansas preacher, rising and falling again, over and over, each time reaching greater heights (or depths) of audacity than the time before.

It is a brilliant treatise on hypocrisy. Elmer is a predatory preacher with an abject dearth of scruples, capable of being deeply moved by the adoration of his flock on a Sunday morning, and then hustling those same parishioners, and perhaps stealing one of their daughters, or wives, by nightfall.

Curiously, he studies hard, works on self-improvement, and devises creative new ways to serve his congregations. He’s smart, innovative, and likeable. No one ever worked harder – but only to enrich and empower himself.

After serving faithfully in a succession of tiny towns that he believes don’t deserve a man of his talent, working his way up, Elmer finally rises to lead a major church in the fictional Midwestern town of Zenith. There, he perfects his skills, commands attention, womanizes, and aspires to even greater acclaim.

Given the contemporaneous Scopes “Monkey Trial” on the teaching of evolution, Lewis observes, “It was at this time that the brisker conservative clergy men saw that their influence in oratory and incomes were threatened by any authentic learning... They saw that a proper school should teach nothing but bookkeeping, agriculture, geometry, dead languages made deader by leaving out all the amusing literature, and the Hebrew Bible as interpreted by men superbly trained to ignore contradictions; men technically called Fundamentalists.”

As Barnes and Noble notes in a review: “The founding of the Moral Majority would not have surprised Lewis; he would only have wondered why it took so long.”

In the closing minutes, a gullible Elmer is exposed in his infidelity by the badger game, the oldest trick in the world, just as he is about to be appointed to a lofty position policing the nation’s morals. He is, briefly, a broken man. There is panic, and then, a miraculous escape. “Never again,” he vows, glancing sideways at the appealing ankle of a new choir member, and Elmer Gantry lives to swindle another day.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • The Life We Bury

  • By: Allen Eskens
  • Narrated by: Zach Villa
  • Length: 8 hrs and 24 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 39,326
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 35,933
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 35,855

College student Joe Talbert has the modest goal of completing a writing assignment for an English class. His task is to interview a stranger and write a brief biography of the person. With deadlines looming, Joe heads to a nearby nursing home to find a willing subject. There he meets Carl Iverson, and soon nothing in Joe's life is ever the same. Carl is a dying Vietnam veteran-and a convicted murderer. With only a few months to live, he has been medically paroled to a nursing home after spending thirty years in prison for the crimes of rape and murder.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Good listen!

  • By Lori on 12-14-15

Wrong Reader

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
2 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 02-21-18

I have to disagree with the praise of Zach Villa as narrator. He has an appropriately youthful sound for the voice of Joe Talbert, a college student. But the combination of careless diction and reading too fast—together with a flat, monotone delivery—makes the book a very tough listen.

There is certainly no requirement for narrators to be booming announcers, and actors often make the best readers. Villa is an actor. But his almost rambling recital, for me at least, made this story impossible to follow.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful